Passive House & LEED Platinum Historical Renovation and Tower Expansion. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency

This project expanded the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) headquarters by nearly 40,000 square feet.

May 4, 2020

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Harrisburg, PA

This project expanded the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) headquarters by nearly 40,000 square feet. The addition and renovation are designed to Passive House, and LEED Platinum sustainability standards—a first for a corporate building in the United States. PHFA had continued agency growth which fueled a major expansion for a new 8-story tower and renovations to historic Hickok House, which occupies Locust Street frontage. Both are integrated with the original building, no small challenge given the site constraints.

This project has been recognized for many awards which are listed below.

*   2020 Governors Environmental Excellence Award, PA Department of Environmental Protection
*   2020 PA AIA Inaugural COTE (Committee on the Environment), Design of Excellence Award
*   2020 Project Honoree, Green Building United’s Groundbreaker Awards
*   2020 AIA Citation Award, Excellence in Design, Central PA Chapter
*   2019 Historic Preservation Award, Historic Harrisburg Association
*   2019 Best Green Project, Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Journal published in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware,  Maryland, & Virginia
*   2019 Most Unique Historic Preservation Project, Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Journal published in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware,  Maryland, & Virginia

Combining Venerable and Visionary

The project protected three historical buildings flanking the new tower. The Hickok House was built in 1904 within the National Register Historic District of the City. The building was deteriorating and in 2011, the Historic Harrisburg Association Board (HARB) placed it on its list of endangered properties. PHFA purchased the building and worked with HARB for years to arrive at a design that would satisfy both parties.

The exterior facade of the mansion was restored to its former glory, but the façade was too porous to support Passive House standards. This was solved by building a new, air-tight barrier “inside” the exterior

facade that adhered to Passive House certifications. This solution allowed the historic facade to be preserved while upgrading its energy performance. Asbestos, lead-based paints and other hazards were removed and replaced with environmentally friendly materials such as low VOC paints and materials made with recycled plastic products.

On the east side of the tower are two clapboard homes that are some of the first structures in the city. The tower’s new foundation was cantilevered eastward with a two grade-beam foundation. This eliminated passive excavation and assured no damage to the stone foundations of the two historical homes.

Impervious to Pervious

The project transformed an urban “impervious” parking lot into the base for an eight-story energy efficient tower with a roof that is completely previous, assisting with stormwater run-off. The historic building’s roofing system now has a portion of a recessed “well” that utilizes a white TPO membrane providing a cool roof that reflects sunlight and absorbs less heat than a standard roof. These roofing systems will reduce fossil

fuel consumption by decreasing air conditioning and heating loads. The tower’s living or green roof also produces its own oxygen, reducing carbon dioxide emissions to offset global warming.

A Healthy Environment Inside and Out

A staff-centric work environment is the result of careful space planning as well as application of 21st century interior design principles. The program encompasses departmental office suites, breakout and flex space, and collaboration areas. Technology, ergonomics, color, texture, pattern, and lighting combine to create a lively, comfortable and high-functioning workplace. Raised flooring systems are the source for heating, cooling and fresh air. Return air ceiling plenums promote a healthy interior environment by removing all particulates from the staff areas.

The living roof system offers multiple benefits. Among them are improved stormwater management, energy

conservation, increased longevity of roof membranes, reduces urban heat island mitigation, and a higher return on investment compared to traditional roofs.

Economic Impact

This expansion project will allow PHFA to continue to grow its staff, which will also benefit the downtown

core economically. Plans are already underway to eventually have PHFA start servicing home loans for housing finance agencies around the country. That work will be possible in great part thanks to the space provided in the new tower.

Some of the space in the adjoining Hickok House, will be shared with business partners and local community

groups, which will educate more people about Passive House buildings and will bring more economic benefit to the city of Harrisburg.

The long-term savings to PHFA should be substantial as the structure is considered super energy efficient due to its design and the construction materials used.

All Photography © 2020 Don Pearse, Robert J. Polett and Mike Mihalo Photography.

“Benedict Dubbs, one of the firm’s principals, worked with us for months prior to bidding developing the design. The overall concepts of form and function are his,” said Mike Kosick. “Mike Frye, the other principal and their in-field representative, was onsite no fewer than twice a week and was on call anytime we needed him. Last but certainly not least was Murray Associates’ Rob Hutchins. He was the actual day-to-day, nuts and bolts architect, who was the design team lead person. I believe we shortened his life expectancy by five years on this job! The entire design group and their consultants, we’ve been able to hammer the unforeseen situations out as they arise.”

Mike Kosick, PHFA’s director of technical services. Passive House Buildings. Spring/Summer 2019. Expanding a Mission March 5, 2021

“One of the most challenging and constricted sites but was still able to achieve some of the highest levels of sustainability with a thoughtful and well-integrated solution. The project provides a beautiful and timely example of how to re-use and rehabilitate existing buildings to maintain cultural and neighborhood character while increasing density through urban infill and preserving invaluable as-built resources.”

The Committee on the Environment (COTE) Award of Excellence, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Pennsylvania’s Jury March 5, 2021

“Murray Associates Architects has created a lead-by-example, high-performance building project that is both unique and a first of its kind. This project is a clear example of the sustainability pathway in which we must invest for commercial building spaces as well as affordable housing options within the commonwealth.”

Mark Hand, Director of the Pennsylvania GreenGov Council March 5, 2021

“This project is one of the most innovative and creative building projects to be carried out in Downtown Harrisburg in many years. A sensitivity to historic preservation by virtue of its restoration and preservation of the landmark Hickok Mansion at Front and Locust Streets as well as substantial design and footprint modifications to allow for the preservation of the Locust Street residential streetscape including two very historic early American townhouses that date from the 18th Century! Both Murray Associates Architects and the PA Housing Finance Agency have records of outstanding corporate citizenship in the Harrisburg community. This is something that matters greatly to our Association, and we are happy to have these two nationally admired entities in our midst. This project is indeed a credit to our community.”

David J. Morrison, Executive director, Historic Harrisburg Association March 5, 2021